Textual Echoes: Fan Fiction and Sexualities edition:1 location:Umea University date:11-13 February 2010
Since the 1960s, semiotician Umberto Eco has written at length about 'open work', a largely theoretical kind of artwork characterized by open-endedness and a need for audience participation. By combining this concept with other semiotic methods of data extraction and analysis, it would seem possible to construct an alternative method of fan fiction interpretation that permits objectively verifiable data to be examined within the established theoretical framework of the 'open work' -a framework whose precepts make it uniquely suited to analysis of online amateur media such as fanfic.
A preliminary test of this method seems to confirm its potential for opening new perspectives on fanfic narratives and using public debate about the findings as a part of the research itself, not something that occurs only after final publication of the results. I will illustrate the method's advantages and disadvantages by detailing its use in a broader study currently underway. This study contrasts English-language fanfics published online with Japanese amateur comics (dojinshi) based on the same source material (the 'Harry Potter' series). The data sets examined contain a wide variety of narrative elements, including but not limited to characters, pairings, narrators, handling of canon elements, sexual activity, events, and locations.